Paleontologists See Stars as Software Bleeps Scientific Terms – The New York Times

Paleontologists See Stars as Software Bleeps Scientific Terms – The New York Times

The trouble started when Thomas R. Holtz Jr., an expert on the Tyrannosaurus rex, typed “Hell Creek Formation,” the rock unit in Montana where the remains of North America’s last giant dinosaurs have been found.

He was trying to answer a colleague’s question after an online presentation during the first day of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology’s 80th annual conference.

But Mr. Holtz was stunned when instead of the word “Hell,” four asterisks appeared in the chat.

Puzzled, he described the issue on Twitter. Colleagues chimed in with other words that had been rejected by the software system set up to filter out profanities: knob, pubis, penetrate and stream, among others.

“Most funny to us was the censorship of ‘bone,’ which, after all, are the main thing we work with,” Mr. Holtz said.

Many have raised concerns about online censorship by large tech companies. Instagram has been criticized for banning posts of art featuring nudity. In 2016, the Swedish Cancer Society used graphics of square-shaped breasts in a video about breast exams to evade Facebook’s censors.

But the blocking of benign terms commonly used by paleontologists seemed especially overzealous.

After Mr. Holtz posted a list of the banned words on
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